Chester Barnard and the Systems Approach to Nurturing Organizations

Joseph T Mahoney, Andrea Gabor

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


This article describes Chester Barnard (1886–1961), the author of , one of the twentieth century’s most influential books on management and leadership. The book emphasizes competence, moral integrity, rational stewardship, professionalism, and a systems approach, and was written for posterity. Barnard emphasized the role of the manager as both a professional and as a steward of the corporation. His teachings drew on personal insights as a senior executive of AT&T, which saw good governance as the primary means of winning public acceptance of its telecommunications monopoly. Barnard provided a conceptual scheme of the theory of organization based on the following structural concepts: the individual and bounded rationality, cooperation, formal organization, and informal organization. The principal dynamic concepts include communication, consent theory of authority, free will, the decision process, dynamic equilibrium and the inducement–contributions balance, and leadership, executive responsibility, and moral codes.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationThe Oxford Handbook of Management Theorists
EditorsMorgen Witzel, Malcolm Warner
PublisherOxford University Press
ISBN (Print)9780199585762
StatePublished - 2013


  • AT&T
  • authority
  • bounded rationality
  • Chester Barnard
  • consent theory
  • Functions of Executive
  • leadership
  • moral integrity
  • organization theory


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